Being a chef, there is no denying that I am infatuated by cooking but one thing I love just as much is being able to sit down at the dinner table to enjoy my guest's company.
There is nothing worse than being stuck in the kitchen and missing all of the good times that are happening at the dinner table. That's why this week I'm stripping it right back and going back to basics with this recipe. I've included lots of nutritional ingredients, which can all be cooked together without any fuss.
I've chosen to use mutton because it's a fantastic piece of affordable meat that has been around for a long time. Mutton is the most traditional and flavourful meat to use in a casserole and this recipe shows how to cook it properly and how to enjoy mutton at its best.
The top-secret ingredient for this dish is simply time - an ingredient that unfortunately you can't buy! Luckily you can leave it bubbling away for as long as you like but just remember to reduce the temperature the longer you leave it cooking. My grandmother used to leave the mutton ragout cooking all day long on the corner of her stove and it tasted incredible each time, so I have to say I swear by this method of cooking.
Cassoulet de mouton with haricot beans
2kg mutton shoulder, diced
1 handful of coarse sea salt
2ltrs of chicken stock or clear veal stock
500g haricot beans, rinsed, drained then left to soak in water overnight
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 bouquet garni
50g duck or goose fat
4 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to season
Method (the day before)
1. Rinse and drain the haricot beans and leave them to soak in cold water overnight.
2. Peel and crush one garlic clove and combine with the sea salt and olive oil. Gently rub the mixture on the lamb and place on a prepared tray. Cover and keep refrigerated overnight to marinate.
1. Remove your meat from the fridge and leave it to rest until it reaches room temperature.
2. Heat up a thick cast iron pot and add half of the duck fat. Once the pan is piping hot seal the mutton until it's golden on all sides. Remove the mutton from the pot and set aside.
3. Using the same pot, add the onions, carrots, garlic and tomatoes and gently simmer on a low heat.
4. After a few minutes add the mutton and pour in one litre of stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for 1½ hours on a very low heat.
5. Transfer the haricot beans into the casserole with the extra stock. Add the bouguet garni and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1½ hours.
6. Drain the beans but keep the stock and pour it over the mutton in a deep oven dish then follow with the beans on top. Add the rest of the duck fat and more stock if needed.
7. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the dish and heat in the oven at 200 C for an hour or longer at a lower temperature.
8. Best served with a strong wine from the south west of France. My favourite is Domaine d'Escausses Gaillac Cuvée des Drilles 2008.